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Old 02-09-2011, 02:06 AM   #26
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

Testing what?

if the blade works?, if the swordsman has good technique? if he can kill withouk blinking an eye?
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Old 02-09-2011, 03:25 AM   #27
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
Testing what?

if the blade works?, if the swordsman has good technique? if he can kill withouk blinking an eye?
Yes, yes, no.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 02-09-2011, 07:50 AM   #28
Keith Larman
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

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Yes, there is plenty of doubt. What you describe, a samurai cutting down a peasant for a slight provocation, just to test his new sword, never happened.
I added the emphasis. I admit I didn't word it well but adding the last qualifier of "just to test his new sword" was most certainly *not* in what I wrote (or meant). I already acked that many argue that never happened or that if it did, it was exceedingly rare (and not condoned.)

What I meant is that there were violent events and the stratification of society due to class didn't exactly help and that there are no shortage of accounts of killings, bodies found in a ditch, etc. Sometimes they were killed rather, um, skillfully. That does not mean it was "okay" in any sense of the word or condoned, just that sword violence happened and that most, at least in certain time periods, would be familiar with the damage the sword could do. Not that they all ran around killing people, but that the notion that a sword cuts easily and efficiently wasn't just some abstract principle that required extensive test cutting to be aware of.

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Old 02-09-2011, 08:02 AM   #29
phitruong
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

don't know anything about test cutting other than using my cleaver on various domesticated animals.

i am curious on the diagonal cut from the shoulder to the side of the hips, kesa geri. would that a really good idea to make that cut since it goes through lots of bones at various angles and covered with muscle and sinew? and how would folks test cut something like that?
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Old 02-09-2011, 08:33 AM   #30
Toby Threadgill
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

Hi

I'm very happy to see Mr Reyer's comments about Burei-uchi and the kirisute-gomen. I once asked Takamura sensei about this phenomena. He ridiculed the idea as typical western nonsense befitting James Clavel's novel "Shogun". He reiterated that samurai faced intense scrutiny for even drawing their swords in public, much less killing some poor peasant for a cultural sleight. He told me that the stories of westerners killed by samurai prior to the Taisai Hokon were factual but to remember that this was an era of intense political conflict related to western influence in Japan's political structure. Drawing a sword and using it in public was rash behavior and never common practice by a samurai in the service of a lord.

On Tameshigiri...Meik Skoss and Takamura sensei would be in lock step agreement on this. Tameshigiri is the ceremonial use of a sword in a manner simulating killing. It is not a game. In TSYR, tameshigiri is seen as no more than an infrequently used technical check. The way it is employed is no different than our regular performance of kata. There are no flashy attempts at multiple cuts and no grandiose posing. We simply execute a portion of our kata with a target in cutting range to make sure our cutting dynamics are being properly maintained. There is nothing more to it. So, in our koryu, tameshigiri is part of our training but it bears little similarity with what is commonly associated with the practice today.

Takamura sensei and I once walked out of budo embu in San Franciso where a supposed exponent of ninjutsu began a public demonstration of tameshigiri. That this "ninja" was utterly unaware of the reigi demanded in such a situation irritated Takamura sensei to the point exasperation. Had Takamura sensei witnessed the following demonstration of tameshigiri, someone would have experienced a severe ass chewing. It is unfathomable!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPPZPglKhw0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNtDZ0sStEU

Toby Threadgill / TSYR

Last edited by Toby Threadgill : 02-09-2011 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 02-09-2011, 09:33 AM   #31
Cliff Judge
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

The Judicial Chopping of Heads
I don't think there is any disagreement that executions were often performed by designated swordsmen. It seems a logical, expedient way to take care of it, given that a whole caste of folks is walking around with the tool for the job on their hips.

Now in Japan, like other societies, the job of headsman is not respectable, and carries a considerable stigma. The passage in Memories of Silk and Straw about the executioner depicts the fear people feel for this kind of man. In cases where headsmen were drawn from the general population of warriors, they were probably guys who were really good in the dojo but didn't like people much.

In cases where the job was passed from father to son, maybe there was some form of systematic education on how to cut a bound man's head off. There's a chance that the sons of the town carnifex didn't have access to the best dojos, so the maybe a family art would be developed of neccessity. I don't think you'd see it performed at the Meiji Shrine in the fall, but who knows, perhaps somewhere in Japan there is some family that still loyally passes along a family art that everybody involved deeply loathes.

Testing Swords on Peasants
I think we've covered this - was it done? Probably. Was it done often? Definitely not.

Testing Swords on Corpses
This is also something i swear I have read that was more myth than fact, but I have been unable to find any sources, and Keith has produced some sources that it was done. But Keith's mention of this was that is was done by smiths / polishers. So first of all, that would be outside of the realm of budo.

I suppose there is a chance it would be part of systematic instruction of swordmaking, but I find it hard to believe this was a common practice. My reasoning for this is based on my understanding of the Japanese concept of cleanliness vs impurity, with blood, viscera, and dead bodies being about as impure materials as you can find in the world. if you felt that physical impurities like this brought with them a very serious spiritual impurity, would you pay money for a sword that had been tested on a dead body? I'm not reasoning from historical sources here but it seems questionable.

Other Swordsmith Test Cutting / Testing the Sword
I think if we knew anything about this it would have come up in the thread already. I'm talking about whether or not there was a taught art to test cutting as part of the swordmaking process...i.e. not by a prospective bushi buyer, but by the smith, polisher, or one of their men.

I had a conversation with Mr. Covington's teacher about the period extending from pre-Edo to the first generation or so of the Edo period, when combat skills were still relatively good, that "Samurai didn't test cut themselves - they had people to do it for them."

Other Testing of the Swordsman
Well the first thing about test cutting is that it really is cool to watch when it is done well. I'm sure that's why it is so commonly circusified. And I understand that, if you practice a martial art that uses a sword, it can be a useful tool for telling you a strict set of things about your cuts.

But in another conversation I had with Mr. Covington's teacher, it was explained to me that the ability to cut cleanly through a cylindrical mass is not particularly valuable in actual combat with a skilled opponent. The point he made was that quite simply, it requires you to enter a certain distance from your opponent, and in so doing you have offered him a large number of vital targets.

Test Cutting Straw Mats / Koreans / Chinese as a means to inspire fanaticism in your troops and terror in your enemies
This part honestly, truly makes sense to me as the place where systematic study of test cutting intersects with budo.

Once the bushi class was abolished, the Samurai became a symbol that gradually shifted towards something that, in my opinion at least, was more and more perverse leading up to WWII. The Japanese people found their world changing at steam locomotive speed, the zeitgeist was marked by doubt that it was for the best, and the industrialists and planners used the icon of the proud warrior of the past to engender a nationalistic spirit to justify pushing away the influence of foreign powers and conquest of neighboring Asian nations. As militarism increased, the concept of a samurai's unquestioning loyalty and willingness for self-sacrifice was used to inspire zeal and justify depredation of the population.

Budo, really became a tool for the predatory enforcement of group-think in early 20th century Japan. One of my mother-in-law's stories of growing up in Japan during WWII was that the girls would all grab a bamboo naginata from the shed and file outside and do group kata where they practiced cutting open the bellies...of B-29s passing overhead. Obviously this was not training that was particularly useful in a combative context.

I personally have a tough time in my own head, separating the systematic cutting arts from this phase of Japanese history, which I consider to be the most dark. I don't mean any disrespect to people who practice any of the gendai JSAs - particularly Toyama Ryu which was straight-up developed by the Imperial Japanese Army - but how do you reconcile these issues? Again, I don't mean to offend, I am sincerely curious.

I am not saying the Samurai themselves were nice people, or that there weren't plenty of atrocities committed in Korea and China before WWII or even before Meiji, by actual Samurai. And i am well aware of Ueshiba's ties to WWII war criminals. I just feel like there is a (personal, for me) moral line there, and gendai sword arts designed to teach officers how to cut tameshigiri in front of their troops are on the opposite side of the line from where I want to be.

This is something that I never get around to talking candidly about with people who do lots of systematic test-cutting but I guess I have a real need to hear more of their perspective on it, so I've been meaning to bring it up somewhere on the internet for awhile now.

Last edited by Cliff Judge : 02-09-2011 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 02-09-2011, 09:42 AM   #32
Cliff Judge
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

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Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
In TSYR, tameshigiri is seen as no more than an infrequently used technical check. The way it is employed is no different than our regular performance of kata. There are no flashy attempts at multiple cuts and no grandiose posing. We simply execute a portion of our kata with a target in cutting range to make sure our cutting dynamics are being properly maintained. There is nothing more to it. So, in our koryu, tameshigiri is part of our training but it bears little similarity with what is commonly associated with the practice today.
Mr. Threadgill,

Thank you for the very informative and on-topic comment.

Can you comment on whether or not this type of tameshigiri training was commonplace among koryu, or even just in Shindo Yoshin Ryu, before the Meiji Restoration?

I'm still wondering if this type of practice took place within the official training context during the koryu period or if it was an informal extracurricular practice that was later brought in after the abolition of the samurai class.

Thank you very much,
Cliff
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Old 02-09-2011, 10:20 AM   #33
Keith Larman
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

Clarification.

I don't recall saying it was smiths or polishers who did the test cutting of corpses. My understanding was that there were professional test cutters who did that service. A samurai *or* a smith would take a blade to this person to have it tested.

If I get some time tonight after I finish killing myself redoing a naginata foundation today I'll scan a few "technical" drawings. They show the cut locations for corpses which included labels and a ranking of cut difficulty. There are also drawings of the various stands/etc. used to "pose" the corpses for the cuts.

Certainly it was gross, disgusting stuff.

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Old 02-09-2011, 10:22 AM   #34
Keith Larman
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

Oops, to further clarify so I don't end up reading somewhere else that I said smiths don't test cut with their blades... Smiths most certainly test their blades. All the time. Whacking them on the mune on anvils, going edge against an iron plate to test the steel/heat treat/edge geometry, etc.

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Old 02-09-2011, 10:34 AM   #35
Cliff Judge
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

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I don't recall saying it was smiths or polishers who did the test cutting of corpses. My understanding was that there were professional test cutters who did that service. A samurai *or* a smith would take a blade to this person to have it tested.
I apologize for misrepresenting you, you were indeed speaking specifically of professional sword testers.

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Keith Larman wrote: View Post
The book quotes any number of documents from the actual time period describing different "schools" of sword testers (Nakagawa school, chokushi school, Yamada, etc), different methods, different ways of preparing the bare blade, even describing what order to do the test in to "maximize" the number of tests you could get per corpse. One fella even wrote a full book on the methods used.
...and you even named particular schools of sword testing! Thanks very much, that answers a lot of questions I had.
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Old 02-09-2011, 11:01 AM   #36
Toby Threadgill
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
Mr. Threadgill,

Thank you for the very informative and on-topic comment.

Can you comment on whether or not this type of tameshigiri training was commonplace among koryu, or even just in Shindo Yoshin Ryu, before the Meiji Restoration?

I'm still wondering if this type of practice took place within the official training context during the koryu period or if it was an informal extracurricular practice that was later brought in after the abolition of the samurai class.

Thank you very much,
Cliff
Mr Judge,

I'm led to assume it was practiced in TSYR and Yoshin ryu Iaitachijutsu much that same as we practice it today, as a simple technical check. In TSYR, the specifics of tameshigiri reigi and practice is kuden, consequently it not listed on any of our densho. Interestingly however, Shinto prayers used in conjunction with our tameshigiri reigi are listed on one of our densho. One prayer in particular is directly associated with a sword purification ritual performed before and after tameshigiri.

I have a large collection of densho that belonged to my teacher. Over the years I have added to it. In the process of searching out densho associated with the various lines of Yoshin ryu I have seen an old Akiyama Yoshin ryu Iaitachijutsu densho that illustrated how to make straw cutting targets and construct a proper cutting stand. If memory serves me right this densho dated from the Genbun era so this indicates some schools were practicing tameshigiri in some form or fashion as far back as the mid 1700's.

It is my impression from discussions with my teacher that tameshigiri was first conceived during the Edo period several decades after the Warring States period had ended. Its use was utterly utilitarian. Following the Meiji Restoration public budo demonstration's like the Kankyo Gekkenkai became quite popular. It's seems logical that with such theatrical influences afoot, flashy examples of swordsmanship, including overly dramatic tameshigiri displays would be inevitable.

Toby Threadgill / TSYR
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Old 02-09-2011, 12:07 PM   #37
DH
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
The Judicial Chopping of Heads
I personally have a tough time in my own head, separating the systematic cutting arts from this phase of Japanese history, which I consider to be the most dark. I don't mean any disrespect to people who practice any of the gendai JSAs - particularly Toyama Ryu which was straight-up developed by the Imperial Japanese Army - but how do you reconcile these issues? Again, I don't mean to offend, I am sincerely curious.
What some swordsman in the Japanese Army did in WW2 would have more than likely gravely concerned the actual Samurai who came before them.
I probably would not be overly concerned with offering offense to their efforts.

Quote:
This is something that I never get around to talking candidly about with people who do lots of systematic test-cutting but I guess I have a real need to hear more of their perspective on it, so I've been meaning to bring it up somewhere on the internet for awhile now
Well. I am one of the ones Keith refers to who tests his blades, mune to mune, edge to edge, edge to mune..destroying them and others swords, bending in vices, cutting brass rod and cable, and cutting trees.
My concerns and interests lie in what constitutes in-service use of a sword as a tool. Realize the same holds true when forging other tools, machetes, bowies, kukris, hunting knives and so one; different tools, different demands. However this is not to be misconstrued with other discussions or practices of test cutting by gendai arts, Iai arts or held within a koryu. A smith he has once set of of concerns; the swordsmans concerns have to encompass those of the smith and much more. So, it is a different topic all together.

That said my interest in cutting with a Japanese sword, are based on two fronts, one as a smith, one as a Japanese art practitioner.
Cheers
Dan

Last edited by DH : 02-09-2011 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 02-09-2011, 03:05 PM   #38
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

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Keith Larman wrote: View Post
I added the emphasis. I admit I didn't word it well but adding the last qualifier of "just to test his new sword" was most certainly *not* in what I wrote (or meant).
That was the gist that I got from your post #11.

Of course violence occurred, even in the peace of the Edo period. But it was samurai-on-samurai, samurai-on-peasant, peasant-on-samurai, and peasant-on-peasant. The only thing I'm objecting to is the idea that the kirisute-gomen meant that commoner's lives were not valued, and thus samurai went around cutting them down if the mood struck. From the point of view of the government, all violence was undesirable, including burei-uchi, even though it felt maintaining the right was an important part of keeping orderly rule.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 02-09-2011, 06:00 PM   #39
Keith Larman
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Re: Professional discussion of Test cutting in Koryu

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That was the gist that I got from your post #11.
Ah, I get it now rereading what I wrote in #11. Yeah, that wasn't really what I meant. I was trying to separate the notion of test cutting as done by specialists with the (likely apocryphal) "accounts" of random peasants being cut down on a whim as another form of test cutting. I've heard people toss both out as simply stories when there's ample documentation of the former.

But I'll stop now, I've muddied things enough.

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